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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Groundbreaking is the term for this movie...It is considered one of the
hundred best movies ever made and for very good reason...Director
Sidney Lummet has a reputation for the director of the
non-conventional!!...A cogency for making the absolute truth a
guileless villain, a rude awakening for television viewers, and a
stubborn scripture for facts is what purports a film like Network as a
masterpiece for the prolific and intellectual!! You could not ask for
better acting!! The acting in this movie is second to none!! Robert
Duvall, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Ned Beatty and a
whole list of others...Perhaps the best acting in any film made
whatsoever!! It starts with Howard Beale (Peter Finch) a victim of his
own human pitfalls...Ossified and dejected from his declining years
going from bad to worse, he becomes isolated, desultory ,morbid and
morose and feels his life has no meaning, he threatens suicide on live
television and is discarded as being a wacko!!...At first!!..but guess
what!! he's a hit!!...So the ratings crazed cutthroats make him an
instant success by labeling him "The Angry Prophet Denouncing the
Hypocracies of Our Time"...As long as we've gone this far, let's break
all of the rules...Bring on the terrorists, the soothsayers, the
insurectionaries, the financial gurus, the faith healers, and the para
military radicals, to reduce the severity of hard bitten news to a side
show of carnival freaks!!! William Holden plays the old school business
man with "primal doubts" about his life in general..."male menopause"
with "defineable features" He is happily married yet after being
bombarded from all sides in the autumn of his years, he is frightened
that the new generation is impervious to basic tenets of human morality
such as ethics and compassion...The woman with whom he gets involved,
is callous not because she is vindictive, but because she is
emotionless!! This woman (Faye Dunaway) is the "Television Incarnate"
Ice Queen who reduces time and space to "split seconds and instant
replays" the daily business of life is a "corrupt comedy" and the only
redeeming quality to modern marvels and a "radiant eruption of
Democracy" is that it gets a 32 share!!...This acting performance is
perhaps the best acting performance I have ever seen...The type of
person Dianna Christensen was supposed to be was played out
perfectly...The delivery of the elaborated monologues and diatribes
were absolutely remarkable....She was ideologically explosive yet
person-ably obtuse. You knew why she wasn't the drinking type...she was
too emotionally detached...In the thick of women's liberation, whereby
a woman wanted to be just like a man, this movie portrayed how being
just like a man had it's drawbacks!! "Arousing quickly, consummating
prematurely" and suffering from the cumbersome fate of being crippled
by ineptitude at everything else but your work, made Dianna Christensen
perennially wistful of testosterone laden aggression!! Aggregately, she
invoked societal demise through channels of deductive reasoning!!
Director, Sidney Lummet, was insistent that Dianna Christensen be
utterly devoid of vulnerability!! Mr Hackett (Robert Duvall) played the
hatchet man for the CCA...A rough around the edges errand boy for Mr
Jensen (Ned Beatty) who viewed this network as his big chance and that
whatever worked worked ..Scruples were never an issue, and ratings were
pending exchange!! Howard Beale (Peter Finch) the "Angry prophet
denouncing the hypocrisies of our time" surprised even himself with his
charismatic clout with the naive television audience!!! He was the UBS
star-lighted "Mad Prophet of the airways"...He could arouse anger and
counter-culture overzealousness just by appearing crazy!!! One speech
Mr Jensen (Ned Beatty) was a bit role but incredibly powerful in his
delivery of the basic concept that ideology is for sale and that
television is the ultimate vehicle for manipulation!! Paddy Chayefsky
is pioneer with this film as an acrimonious depiction for making world
phenomena such as the fall of Communism and landing man on the moon to
be minimized to a market share!!!..The terms entertainment and
egalitarianism now became pejorative!!!! The movie audience is hit with
the terrifying reality that a societal caprice will induce the
avaricious to capitulate to human catastrophe...Give Paddy Chayefsky
and Sidney Lummet credit for unveiling the revelation that ratings and
the dollar take precedence over humanity!!! Howard Beale, the decrepit
alcoholic, euphemistically transformed to the prescient paragon of
intuitiveness, was alright so long as his innocuous chastisements did
not disrupt worldwide pecuniary acquisitions!! Once they did, he was
quelled, and thus deemed a total ratings chart disaster!! Ultimately,
Howard Beale, the once disheveled dipsomania-cal curmudgeon, turned
Messianic Savonarola, becomes the typification of the corporate guinea
This movie is avant-garde in it's ability to convey the message of greed first democracy second, or third, depending on the sponsors of the Howard Beale Show... An incident was determined traumatic or not traumatic by it's lucrative marketability potential!! Terrorism is not terrorism if it means ratings!!! The character assassination of all the people in this movie was at the grass roots level!! Their avoidable flaws were entrenched as irreconcilable!! Any people with any conscience whatsoever (William Holden & his wife) were decimated by reveille with selfishness, now it is imperative that they pick up the pieces!! How many imitations of this movie have there been...thousands!! Network however was the first movie of it's kind to effectively portray the concept of "dying Democracy and dehumanization" probably the best movie of it's kind as well... This is an illustration of how heinous tragedy has to be stomached by the television audience, their response to clinical trauma transcends the impact suffered by the actual victims involved!! It is a proverbial case of ratings eclipsing reality!! The film "Network" resonates itself to a point whereby the American people are reduced to meager by-products of the Fortune 500!! I wish there could be a movie of this caliber made again!! I am angry that there has not been a sensationalistic masterpiece to come around for some time, and I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!!!
This movie came out when I was nine years old, and I saw it on network
TV the following year, lured by the brouhaha that surrounded the use of
the "barnyard epithet" during prime time. I loved this movie before I
understood it, and I worship it now. Like "Elmer Gantry" or "1984,"
it's a work of didactic art that only fails on an imaginative level --
Sinclair Lewis couldn't grasp how debased evangelism would become,
Orwell couldn't foresee the excesses of Mao or Pol Pot, and Chayevsky
couldn't envision the absolute decline of television from a vast
wasteland to a malevolent sewer. Fox News, reality TV, even the OJ
chase, "Network" anticipates every vile bit of it.
Now, it's ridiculously overwritten -- NO ONE is as articulate as the characters in this film, and most certainly, no one who works in television is as literate as Diana Christensen (the Faye Dunaway character). I doubt that poet laureates or even Eminem could spew as witty an aside as "muttering mutilated Marxism." But damn if that isn't part of its charm. Plus, outside of Max Schumacher (William Holden), the characters are pretty much archetypes instead of real people (the Robert Duvall character might as well wear a black cape and top hat), but their two-dimensionality works as a good metaphor for Max's seduction into the "shrieking nothingness" or television. Plus the actors are so superb they make screeching caricatures into almost-sympathetic characters: Duvall is a credible and charismatic villain, Finch is a fine mad prophet and Faye Dunaway manages to make a shrill, manipulative, soulless neurotic so damn cute and sexy you'll want to leave your wife for her, too, just as long as she promises to keep sitting cross-legged on your desk and hitching up her skirt. (Therein lies the real eroticism, forget the intentionally mechanical, unerotic coupling later in the flick). Anyway, this is complex, high art masquerading as popular entertainment, go rent it now.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Network". If there was ever a film that foreshadowed to events of the future it would be "Network". Much like "Midnight Cowboy" seven years earlier, "Network" was hailed because it took risks and it was like nothing that the cinema had ever experienced before. Both films were great when they were initially released, but few great films become so much better with time like "Midnight Cowboy" and "Network". The fictional fourth network of 1976 is UBS. Ratings are bad and the network desperately needs some new show to give them a boost to challenge NBC, CBS, and ABC. Enter the network's national news anchorman (Peter Finch in his posthumous Oscar-winning role). He, like the network, is going through a crossroads. His wife has just passed away, he is about to be fired, and he is slowly losing his mind. The firing is imminent and he decides that he will announce to the world that he will commit suicide on his last evening news broadcast. Of course a national frenzy starts, but Finch surprises all by showing just how crazy he is. Instead of committing suicide, he goes on the air and becomes a modern-day Moses to some with crazed ravings and outlandish statements that really are just the ramblings of a man slowly spinning out-of-control. Faye Dunaway (Oscar-winning) and Robert Duvall are the key people at the network who find a way to market Finch and boost anemic ratings. Finch is given a variety show which could be best described as "The Tonight Show" gone stark-raving mad. He gets on stage and basically says whatever is on his mind and the crowds love it. Co-worker and close personal friend William Holden (Oscar-nominated) knows that Finch is out of control, but cannot do anything and eventually is let go due to his disapproval and interference. Holden though has fallen in love, or lust, with the unfeeling Dunaway. Wife Beatrice Straight (in an Oscar-winning performance in which she has less than 10 minutes of screen-time) learns of what is going on and more trouble ensues for Holden on the home-front. Finch meanwhile continues his ravings as he hears voices in his head telling him what he must do each time he is asked to perform. Soon his act grows stale as the public tires of his antics and the network must always defend speeches that they themselves do not really understand. Finch's "15 minutes" of fame eventually come to an end, but not in the conventional way that one may think. "Network" is a cinematic masterpiece because it is so strong in the major elements of the industry. The acting is exceptional. There were five performing nominations from this film (Ned Beatty was the fifth) and three wins. The only other film to accomplish that was "A Streetcar Named Desire" from 1951. Sidney Lumet was great before this film, but he became even greater afterwards. This is arguably his greatest directing job. The screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky is one of the smartest ever written. It is insightful and has a real depth to it. "Network" was looked upon as a sort of "far-fetched black comedy" in 1976. However, "Network" is a film that is all too realistic 25 years later. In many ways the fictional UBS station is much like the FOX station which came on the air in the late-1980s and stole audiences with wild shows that were quite different from the other three networks. Reality television, perverted talk shows, and other types of variety programming run wild today. "Network" did not have much to do with all this occurring, but it is like those who worked on the film had a crystal ball into the future. A great movie that becomes greater as time passes. 5 stars out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Thirty years after its release to public praise and multiple Oscar
wins, Network is one of those films that instead of dating badly or
becoming a product of its time has actually grown and become even more
relevant today, and if it were re-released in 2006 for its actual
thirtieth anniversary not on film but on national television right at
the beginning of the fall season (complete with the most lurid reality
TV shows and inane TV pleasers), it would only become more justified in
The story of the failing network that didn't have a show on the Nielsen Top 20 and resorted to extreme measures to ensure that this changed seems so today: we see how channels that once had failing ratings churned out shock television right smack in the daytime while still applying Standard and Practices to other "prime-time" shows that could be taken the "wrong" way. Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, Rikki Lake, Oprah, Mark Burnett, MTV -- they're all here under different guises, all competing to have their voices heard on television, all eventually becoming as ratings-hungry and establishment-friendly as the CEOs running the show.
Today we don't quite have Howard Beales ranting and raving about the ills of society on national TV (although they do "tell" us how we should feel, when we should laugh if we're too stupid to get the joke, who to vote for, the "truth" about the tobacco industry). Today media is all the rage and televises even a fart if it deems it interesting and guarantees more viewers. Today shows like "20/20" or "60 Minutes" bring us 'exclusives' even if it's at the cost of journalistic integrity. And now, with 'reality TV' still the dominating novel trend even in little-seen cable channels, creating stereotypes in leaps and bounds while claiming authenticity of the events depicted, there hasn't yet been a need to create a lunatic who could sermonize everything and make us Mad as Hell. On this aspect alone NETWORK has dated: the 70s were all about counterculture, anti-establishment, revolution, leftists, Patty Hearsts, Lennon and Yoko, "Nova", the Mansons, the hippies, the Earth-lovers, the militants. Nowadays, buff bodies parade themselves in shows containing outlandish competitions where eating the most grotesque concoctions are the norm, or enduring a barrage of extreme insults has become entertainment (i. e. "American Idol") and the very concept of dignity flies out the window. Of course, after signing an extensive release form in which they free the network of all responsibilities if something goes wrong because we all know networks can't be held liable for any faux pas. In short, nowadays people from all over try to become the next It person and outlast their 15 minutes of fame. Nowadays, everyone has their own reality TV show depicting their 24 hour day activities. I wonder if Diana Christensen isn't alive and well and exerting absolute control over the networks in general, bringing anything and everything that can garner a little bit of shock value (Boy Meets Boy, or any reality TV self-made "villain/villainess") and eventual ratings, taking over actual scripted shows with real actors.
NETWORK is a powerful movie of which I can't praise enough about even if its screenplay, by Paddy Chayefsky is a little too verbose. No one talks the way he makes his characters talk, using impassioned speeches with big, even archaic, words, and more than once the script makes the characters go completely over the top but even then it makes its point. Of the actors, William Holden's quiet portrayal of a former television exec, Max Schumacher, who has a conscience, but still feels some attraction to danger and risks his own family to experience is who is at the heart of this crazy story who was ahead of its time. Peter Finch's Howard Beale never comes through enough as a real human being: just someone who was pushed too hard and decided to shut down for the remainder of his life. But Holden holds the moral glue of the story, and interestingly enough, is wise to know that his affair, perfectly scripted as he even states, will end on a high note -- he'll return to his sanity and his wife, and Diana Christensen will bask in her own executive madness, since this is all she knows and holds dear. In her last words -- "Let's kill the son of a bitch." -- she informs us this is all she is about without so much as batting an eye. Who comes, who goes, is irrelevant to her, as long as the network can be number one. And that is the inhuman reality of television -- a media directed to entertain humans.
I just finished watching this movie and was blown away. Sidney Lumet's
satire shows the hollowness of television and the mindless generation
that is produced from an excess of it. This film is shocking and
eye-opening also showing executives' mad quest for ratings.
The acting in this film is superb. Peter finch stars as the TV anchor who becomes an "angry prophet who denounces the hypocrisies of our time." We gradually see how he first preaches to the common everyman, but is then exploited by the slick executives to achieve their one goal: Ratings. Faye Dunaway also shines as the Vice President in charge of programming who finds herself becoming less aware of the difference between television and reality. William Holden also lends fine support.
As the acting and directing in this film are exquisite, the message it portrays is a very strong one. This scathing indictment of TV is necessary for everyone to see.
It is the only word I can come up with to describe this masterfully
savage satire, and IMHO, it's the only word that need be used.
Once I had seen ALTERED STATES and read the novel, I was hungry to find out more about the late novelist/playwright/screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, and sought out this movie. It blew me away years ago, but I find it even more stunning now. Not just because of the writing, Sidney Lumet's taut direction or the Oscar-caliber performances by everyone involved, all of which are almost beyond being lauded with superlatives.
But what knocks me out is how Chayefsky seemed less to be writing from the power of his imagination, than channeling Our Times Now. As if he was capable of some form of mental time travel; able to look into the Nineties and beyond to see the coming of SURVIVOR, or Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, Bill O'Reilly and Paris Hilton. Even HE probably didn't know how he knew, but he sure as hell felt it and wrote it down for us to marvel over today.
Sure, there are political and cultural analogies throughout the picture that are dated. But the core of his vision remains startlingly clear and eerily prophetic. As for Howard Beale, there is not one single "celebrity" who mirrors that character today, but maybe he is a composite of several different personalities with whom we have become all too familiar in the world of "news-fo-tainment." Or maybe he simply hasn't materialized yet. Maybe that is just how far ahead of its time NETWORK really was.
After all, being "mad as hell" nowadays has so many more layers of meaning than it did nearly thirty years ago...
I can't put it more perfectly than Turner Classic Movies' Robert
Osborne who said "What was originally a satire is a stinging mirror of
television news today." I strain to think of a film that is a more
brilliant take on society, and all of the flaws it has. It's obedience
and entertainment by those who rebel, no matter how insane they are.
The exploitation of those in peril for any kind of economic profit. And
the fact that everything Beale preaches is completely true and
completely bashes the people who are producing him. I was amazed by how
much he sells out while continuing to rant about how terrible the
people he works for are, and the fact that they just keep him on the
air because they want ratings.
It couldn't be more related to today. Turn on the news and you see videos of how horrific the war on terror is and how horrific American society has become, but it stays on the air because people don't want to see the good things in life. They care about the bad and the corrupt. People must have laughed it off back then, but it was such a foreshadow to the near future. The performances are just as brilliant as the social commentary. Each actor becomes so absorbed into their characters that you can't even tell they're acting. It feels like you're watching these people in their daily lives, interacting and becoming more and more corrupt. Finch and Dunaway easily give two of the greatest performances of all time. I could write 20 more pages about it's brilliance, but I'll stop now to keep me from rating. I just have to say that it's so rare to find a film as incredibly flawless as this.
To think that this blackest of black comedies was made in 1976 could only means two things: 1) Nothing has changed or 2) Paddy Chayefsky was seeing the future with the most disturbing clarity. I endorse the later of the two because I believe things have changed since 1974 - I wasn't born yet, but I know because of my parents, the movies, literature, etc, etc, etc. Peter Finch as the mad prophet of the airwaves gives Chayefsky a riveting and powerful voice. The scenes between old chums Finch and William Holden are some of the best written scenes in any American movie until the Coen brothers emerged. Finch is superb, superb! and Holden, at the end of a legendary career, gives a performance of such ferocious sincerity that I rediscovered the man, the actor and felt the need to revisit some of his opus. From Golden Boy to Sunset Boulevard, Holden was a man who carried his own discomfort as a weapon. Extraordinary! However, the most alarming character in the whole thing is Faye Dunaway's. She is magnificent in her thin, nervous, bra-less attitude. She is a monster of commercial amorality. Everything in this incredible movie moves with the precision of an inspired clairvoyant's vision. Duvall's executive, Beatrice Straight's betrayed wife and Ned Beatty's god like big shot makes this one of the most frightening, entertaining, funniest, remarkable film from the 70's. Sidney Lumet proves once more that he's as good as his material. Here he is at his zenith.
#1 Best Film of 1976
'Network' is Paddy Chafesky's riveting and grim tale of the sleaze surrounding the American television industry. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, 'Network' is without a doubt one of the most powerful, influential and meaningful films ever made. One of the reasons 'Network' was so well received by both film critics and movie-going audiences was because it possessed a certain quality that most films unfortunately lack -- intricate and involving characters in realistic situations. 'Network' definitely makes my list of the top 10 films of the 70s, and it's an absolute shame it didn't pick up the well-deserved 'Best Picture' Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1976.
The film follows a low-rated television network trying to keep it's head above water. The network, UBS, has decided to fire an aging veteran news anchor, Howard Beale (Peter Finch), in an act of desperation to boost ratings. Beale is given a two-week notice, and instead of going out with his tale between his legs, Beale announces on live television he was fired and is going to kill himself. This raises panic and chaos at UBS, until they get the memo that Beale's crazed rant just bumped the ratings significantly. The UBS execs, Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) and Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) decide to give Beale his own show where he complains and screams bout the problems with the world, while Beale's best friend (William Holden) feels it's inappropriate for the network to take advantage of a mentally-ill man. Besides exploiting a mentally unstable man, the company execs also work out a weekly program with a anti-establishment African-American communist, Laureen Hobbs (Marlene Warfield) following political terrorists and their violent outbursts.The film also stars Beatrice Straight as Schumacher's boring wife, Conchetta Ferrell was an assistant working for the network and Ned Beatty who plays the sinister boss of the UBS television network who always gets what he wants.
'Network' boasts one of the finest and most intricate screenplays ever written that rightfully earned Paddy Chafesky the Oscar for Best Screenplay. Sidney Lumet's directing is absolutely incendiary and the movie has an incredibly strong cast. Faye Dunaway gives what is perhaps her very best screen performance as the cutthroat Network executive, while Robert Duvall is just as brilliant as the ruthless Frank Hackett (which should have earned him an Oscar nomination, period!) Beatrice Straight is solid in her role (not quite Oscar-worthy if you ask me, though) and Marlene Warfield is just as great as the sassy pinko sistah (excuse me for that phrasing). The two performers who really steal the show however are William Holden and Peter Finch. Both nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the Academy Awards in 1977, Peter Finch gives a startling and powerful performance as the 'mad-as-hell' (not to mention crazy-as-hell) Howard Beale, while William Holden gives a subtle but none-the-less outstanding performance as the conflicted Max Schumacher. It's hard to say who was better, but if I absolutely had to decide I'd choose Holden's non-Oscar-winning performance slightly over Finch's sympathy Oscar-winning performance (he still was extraordinary,m though). I honestly believe if Finch hadn't died just after the film, Holden would have taken home the Oscar gold for Best Leading Actor, both were still magnificent though. The only player in the cast that I felt wasn't that great was Ned Beatty. In a role far-deserving from an Oscar nomination (which he for some odd reason received), Beatty plays the angry little man role he always does. Besides Beatty's performance and marginal pacing problems towards the middle (you are gonna get that in any 70s film that isn't a Kubrick film), the movie is utterly perfect.
I can't recommend you seeing 'Network' highly enough. If you want a carefully made motion picture that makes you think and reflect on how cutthroat our society has become (especially TV broadcasting), 'Network' is a absolute must. What are you waiting for, go out and rent 'Network'! It might just alter your perspective on things. Grade: A-
MADE MY TOP 300 LIST AT #46
This is one of those wonderful films where everything comes together.
The acting and the writing is by far the most impressive elements of
this film. William Holden and Peter Finch should have both received
Oscars for their performances, instead of just Peter Finch. Faye
Dunaway pulls of the most dynamic and emotional characters she has ever
The true brilliance of this film is that all elements of it fade appropriately behind the actors and their messages. The film is completely a work of storytelling and, at least for the writer, stunning clarity of message and purpose. Political films come and go but few remain in the annals of film because of their effectiveness at their own message.
The cinematography, editing, sound, costume design, art direction and production design are all quite simplistic. In some scenes the film can be accused of being almost ugly. However this all lends to the back-washing of the film so as to allow the message to ring loudest. In my opinion, Sidney Lumet took this just a little too far and thus I give it a 9 instead of a 10.
This is certainly a film for the history books. Every connoisseur of film should be exposed to this movie at some point in their life. If you happen to be cynical, then you will love every minute of this movie as its stark view of life in the 1970's (and onward) touches the hard of even the hardest of cynics. For those educators out there, GREAT film for classes on Media and Politics.
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